There’s More To Calories Than A Number

If you are counting calories it’s more than likely that you are eating less calories than what your body needs throughout the day so that it starts burning off your excess unwanted fat. Which means, it’s lighter foods and less food than what your stomach and body are use to. The first week or two might be a little uncomfortable and feel like you are hungry all the time if you are not eating nutrient dense foods. And you might be thinking you can still eat whatever you want, just as long as you don’t go over your calories. Calories then just become a number. But, there are some factors to consider.

  • What keeps you fuller longer?
  • What are healthy fats? Do you need to eat them if you’re trying to loose fat?
  • Are Calories Equal?
  • What else does your body use for energy when eating a caloric deficit diet?

 

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Fiber Keeps You Feeling Full

Nutrient dense foods are usually high in fiber which is digested slowly and aids in loosing weight.

Nutrient Dense Foods with Fiber

  • Nourishes your body
  • Helps it to process the stored fat
  • Makes sure you are not starving right after eating

Because they are high in nutrients, your body will not be lacking. It might take a week or so for your body to adjust since these are usually lighter foods, but if your body is able to get a balanced diet it will be able to process better, which will help you not be so “hangry”.

 

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You Need Healthy Fats

Fats are calorie dense and are something to watch when you are trying to loose weight. Your body needs to burn off the stored fat, so not taking in a lot of fats, and more fiber rich foods like vegetables is the way to go.

However, your body needs healthy fats. Those fats are the unsaturated fats. Think nuts, avocados, salmon, olive oil, etc. I usually try to get my fats from the actual source and not add it by having oil so it’s digested with the fiber, vitamins, and minerals it was produced with naturally. So I’ll have almonds as a snack, or have a few slices of avocado on my salad. Fats are digested slower and can help keep you fuller longer. So having a small handful of almonds in between a meal if you are starting to get “famished” can do a lot of good.

Still watching the amount to not go overboard and to keep your caloric intake low, still add them into your diet. They do a number of good things, like aiding in joint health, rebuilding of cells, healthy brain function and keeping healthy nerves. But too much of a good thing can be bad and throw off your goals. Keep it in check. Try to only have 1-2 servings of fat rich foods in your diet a day if you are trying to loose weight by counting calories.

 

Calories Are Not Equal

Although nutrient dense foods can be low in calories, you get so much more with it. So to eat enough calories a day with nutrient dense foods goes a long way. Let me illustrate by using a 500 calorie breakfast.

  • Plain Bagel with 6 tbsp Cream Cheese = 500 calories
  • 2 Scrambled eggs, whole wheat toast w/butter, and 1 cup sauteed veggies = 500 calories
Photo by Larissa DeCorves.

OR

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash
Bagel & Cream Cheese Nutritional Information:

511 calories | 27 g total fat | 2 g polyunsaturated fat | 8 g monounsaturated fat | 16 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 81 mg cholesterol | 823 mg sodium | 51 g carbohydrates | 4 g fiber | 9 g sugar | 16 g protein | 40% Vitamin A | 15% vitamin B12 | 0% vitamin C | 4% vitamin K | 21% iron

Eggs, Wheat Toast w/Butter & 1 cup Sauteed Veggies Nutritional Information:

523 calories | 25 g total fat | 2 g polyunsaturated fat | 11 g mono unsaturated fat | 8 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 1245 mg cholesterol | 487 mg sodium | 36 g carbohydrates | 8 g fiber | 8 g sugar | 29 g protein | 261% vitamin A | 315% vitamin B12 | 81% vitamin C | 72% vitamin K | 44% iron

Although they are about the same in calories and about the same amount of calories from fat, the fat with breakfast #2 is the healthy fats (unsaturated) that are used more easily in the body. Then looking at the vitamin percentages with the sauteed veggies will definitely give you a vitamin and mineral boost. For the calories, breakfast #2 would give your body more of what it needs and what it can use and not store right away like with breakfast #1. If you are feeding your body the things it can readily absorb and use right away it won’t be stored as easily and you’ll be able to loose weight quicker without it being unhealthy or without your caloric intake going too low.

 

Caloric Deficit Takes Away More Than Fat

When you are eating a caloric deficit for your body, your body will take away things that are stored to use for energy since you are eating less calories (energy) than what it needs throughout the day. So ideally it will only be burning off the stored fat, but that’s not the case. Your body will also be taking away healthy things that have been stored. Think muscle mass and bone density. With keeping in mind that not all calories are the same, it’s important to make sure the few calories that you are having are rich in vitamins, minerals, and healthy protein so that you are fueling your body with things you want it to keep, and not fueling it with fats that you want it to burn off. So although you “can” have that double bacon cheese burger and it’s the same amount of calories as a turkey sandwich with a salad, stay mindful of what you are feeding your body, not just the calories you’re putting into it.

 

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Bottom Line
  1. Calories are a number and a guide, but is not everything. If you are trying to loose weight by a caloric deficit, keep in mind where your calories are coming from.
  2. Fiber will keep you fuller longer, so stock up on your vegetables.
  3. Fats, although calorie dense, are important in your diet and are needed.
    • Make sure you are eating the healthy unsaturated fats that your body can use right away – nuts, seeds, avocados, salmon, etc.
  4. Calories are not equal. Whatever you are fueling your body with, make sure that it’s vitamin and mineral rich. By eating nutrient dense foods you keep the good parts and loose the bad.

 

2019 Healthy Habit 3: Adding More Whole Foods In Your Diet

I don’t know about you, but for me during the winter it’s easier for me to eat more processed, pick up and go type foods. I want more baked goods, more foods with refined flours and sugar and less of fruits and vegetables. There is a balance with everything, but at the beginning of the new year I like to try to get this part of my diet back in order. The reason?

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More Nutrient Value

As many of you may know, processing foods strips the food of vital nutrients and can lessen the nutritional value. This can be any type of food preparation. Exposing it to oxygen, light, heat or water during cooking will lessen the nutrient value. There is always some nutrient loss when preparing food in general.

However, HIGHLY processed foods are foods that contain:

  • Preservatives (to prevent rotting)
  • Colors
  • Added Flavors
  • Usually is high in added sugars (like high fructose corn syrup)
  • Usually high in refined grains (which is stripped of fiber and nutrients)

These foods add calories with little to no nutritional value. Because of the artificial ingredients, high in sugar, and using highly processed and refined ingredients, it’s lower in nutritional value. They are more calorie dense than nutrient dense.

Eating whole foods like raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, etc. starts getting your diet and nutrition level back to a healthier level. More nutritional value, the better your body will work with you. Then later on when you want to make a big change, your diet is already on the right path.

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Fiber

I talk about fiber a lot in my recipe and nutrition posts but it truly is an important part of your overall health. We already talked about how much water is an important part of health, nutrition, and your digestive process. Fiber is almost just as simple and covers a wide range of benefits as well. There are two types of fiber. Below is what they both help with and then later is where to find those types of fibers in foods.

Soluble Fiber

  • Increases the feeling of being full and satisfied
  • Lowers blood cholesterol by helping to bind with bile
  • Slows glucose absorption
  • Helps with weight management
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Improves blood glucose tolerance and lowers risk of diabetes
  • Lowers risk of colon and rectal cancer

Food Sources of Soluble Fiber

Barley, rye, oats, oat bran, apples, citrus fruit, legumes, seaweed, broccoli, carrots, corn, potatoes, seeds and more.

Insoluble Fiber

  • Softens stools and aids in intestinal motility
  • Increases feelings of fullness
  • Reduce risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, diverticulitis, etc.
  • Lowers rick of colon and rectal cancer
  • Helps with weight management

Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber

Wheat bran, whole grains, brown rice, fruits, legumes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, nuts, seeds, and more.

Bottom Line

Whole foods adds nutrients and fiber to your diet. Although processed foods are starting to add fiber more and more to their products, remember they will still have less nutritional value and usually more added sugars than eating whole foods. Not to mention process foods have food additives and that there is more of a chance it will contain allergens or be processed in a factory that also processes food allergens.

If you are wanting to start to change your diet for the healthier, start with introducing or getting back to eating mainly whole foods.

Easy Way to Start: 
  • Have a piece of fruit, not canned, with breakfast
  • Have at least 1/2, if not 1/3, of your plate consisting of vegetables and whole grains or natural starches with your protein of choice
    • Salad and a baked potato
    • Roasted carrots and brown rice
    • Broccoli and a baked sweet potato
  • Have 1 of your servings of protein a day be a plant based source for added fiber
    • Lentils
    • Beans
    • Nuts and Seeds
  • Keep in mind to have some sort of raw fruit or vegetable at every meal

Whatever might work for you, remember that having nutrient and fiber dense foods will help with your nutrition, digestive health and can help lower the risk of some major diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Getting your diet habits back on track with adding and increasing your whole foods will help when you are ready to make a full diet change later if you are not fully ready to do so. What are you waiting for?